(Left to right): Volker Röhr (Müller Martini), Marco Berg and Ingo Pauw (NovaPrint) and Bernd Schopferer (Martin Automatic)
GERMANY How to maximise productivity was the question facing NovaPrint-Oldenburg when it decided to invest in a second VSOP 850 press. Nick Coombes visited the plant to meet Technical Director Ingo Pauw, and find out how the company came up with the answer.
NovaPrint-Oldenburg, close to the old Hanseatic city of Bremen in northwest Germany, is part of the Bagel Group, a 200 years old family owned company for printing and publishing. Four plants for packaging printing are located in Germany and Scandinavia and serve the label and the flexible packaging market. The label division includes sheet fed offset capability, with three B1 size Heidelberg Speedmaster presses, each with eight-colour capacity and inline coaters, and one with an inline FoilStar unit, as well as web offset, flexo and gravure printing. The Oldenburg plant covers 8000 square meters, employs 110 people, and in 2012 generated a consolidated turnover of approximately EURO million. As the numbers suggest, this is no ordinary label converter!
I asked Ingo Pauw why the company had chosen to invest in additional rotary offset capacity, when clearly it still has a major involvement in the wet-glue label market and three busy sheet fed presses. “We noticed a trend that production was drifting away from gravure printing. This was especially noticeable in the market for beverage labels, but also included flexible packaging and in-mould products for the food industry.” The latter was significant for NovaPrint, because the region surrounding the plant is famous for its food production, including sausage, and other meat products. In addition, the company has developed a good business in the medical market.
While business grew briskly for the company’s first VSOP 850, installed in 2006 and specified with eight offset units and subsequently retrofitted with an Eltromat 100% print inspection system, it posed a problem for NovaPrint. “We knew we needed additional capacity and the back-up insurance of a second press if we were to convince customers of our commitment to growing their business. The second machine would also give us the opportunity to diversify our product capability.” With this in mind, the new press, a Müller Martini VSOP 850, which was commissioned at the beginning of 2014, was specified as a 10-colour offset press including two convertible offset/flexo units , with one dedicated flexo unit and full UV curing and hot air drying capability.
“We chose to fit the new machine with Spectral colour measurement in addition to 100% inspection. This maintains consistent quality by monitoring ink density and image fit, and works with the automatic register system. It allows us to produce high quality proofs for customers, which have become useful sales tools,” explained Pauw. The flexibility offered by being able to combine offset and flexo techniques in one pass, also highlighted the need for increased automation to maximise the production capability of inline manufacture when compared with sheet fed printing and offline converting. “For the first time we began to combine work from different customers on the same job run. This results in fewer make-readies and longer runs,” he explained.
By combining up to 16 different jobs across the 850mm web, and slitting afterwards, NovaPrint can make better use of the new VSOP’s performance on run lengths that are typically 10,000 – 14,000 running meters per single roll. But, in making the runs lengths longer, with fewer machine stops, it needed to address the subject of waste control, and called in Martin Automatic to provide system solutions at the beginning and end of the press. “On our older VSOP press we manually accomplish between five and 10 roll changes per shift, and with each one taking around 10 minutes, we are losing significant production time, and creating significant amounts of residual waste at the end of rolls,” said Pauw.
The solution was to fit a Martin MBXF unwind splicer (the ‘F’ denotes film capability) and a Martin LRD turret rewinder. Chosen for their reliable reputation in hardworking commercial environments, the Martin machines were also available for quick delivery and so could be timed to coincide with the press commissioning by Müller Martini.
Although still in the early days of commercial production when I visited the plant, the effect the Martins were having was marked. “We estimate we are saving around 200 metres of substrate per roll change, which, as many of them are costly to buy, will deliver a fast payback on the investment.” Already down to 25 metres of waste per change with the MBXF, NovaPrint has the potential to hit an even lower number, according to Bernd Schopferer, Martin Automatic’s Sales Manager in Northern Europe. In addition to reducing material waste, the non-stop production facility offered by Martin technology also brings benefits in terms of consistent quality. By allowing the VSOP to run continuously and at a steady speed, all print issues associated with slowing down and ramping up the press either side of a manual roll change are removed. “The result is a happier customer,” said Pauw.
The combination of offset and flexo printing on the new press allows NovaPrint to be more creative in its design work and include, for example, the use of metallic inks, special varnishes, and opaque whites, which can be laid down first, or printed on the reverse. According to Ingo Pauw, the majority of work on the press is with filmic substrates, and consists of wraps, shrink sleeves and in-mould labels for the beverage market. “From one basic design we might produce many adaptations or promotional variations, which we would run off in combination,” he explained. Typically running 35,000 linear metres at average running speeds of 180m/min, jobs are printed eight-colour (to match the capability of the older VSOP), with two of the colours used for the redemption logo required under the DPG scheme for re-using bottles.
Most of the work at the Oldenburg site, like the other printing plants in the Bagel Group, is for local or national customers, and NovaPrint has a portfolio of well-known brands that stand testimony to the quality of its work. The new VSOP handles substrates from 35-micron OPP, PET and self-adhesive stocks to 250gsm light board, which, with the continuous running offered by the Martin Automatic technology, has allowed NovaPrint to move into the growing market of carton sleeve production. “For the first time, we can switch easily from substrate to substrate and job to job, and can take on work that was previously printed by gravure presses. UV-offset is cheaper, more flexible for short run work, and produces a commercially acceptable quality. This bodes well for our future,” commented Pauw.
Looking ahead, NovaPrint sees the need to replace its older VSOP, and the likelihood is that the new press will have both combination print capability and automated roll handling. “The recent installation has been an eye-opener for us. The added flexibility and production efficiencies offered by the Müller Martini/Martin Automatic combination will allow us to develop new markets for our business, including those in cartons and flexible packaging – and that’s what makes a good investment even better,” he concluded.